Wednesday, October 1, 2014

TransRockies Run6 - Stage 5

Red Cliff, CO to Vail, CO
Distance: 23.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,211ft

Woke up slightly more exhausted than my usual. Sleeping in the day before had been nice, but it was back-to-reality day. Had to pack camp and catch a shuttle back to Red Cliff. I hung out with Marna and Mark at Mango's, the bar in Red Cliff. They opened up early for us to stay warm while waiting for the race to start. Unfortunately, it didn't seem like enough down time and the race started sooner than later.

Quick picture at the start!
As usual, Highway to Hell played loud at the start line and off we go... uphill. I knew we were in for a treat with this one. For the first time since Day 1 we were going to climb more than 4,000ft and I was trying to wrap my head around it. I decided to slowly jog as much as possible, but walk when I felt like it. I was pretty much "going on feel". It all worked out pretty nicely for a while... but this was my biggest mistake of the day- I left the start line without a print out of the elevation profile (which I'm really good at doing at all my races!!).

In my head, it was 8 miles of climbing followed by a couple of rolling hills (10 miles in) followed by 2 miles of climbing (12 miles in)... and then all downhill from there (for 11 miles). Oh boy... was I wrong!!!

I arrived to the first aid station at mile 8 in really great spirits. Up until now, we'd been running on a wide dirt road that basically goes from Red Cliff to the top of Vail Pass. It was a little shaded (lots of trees) during the first couple of miles, but then it opened up and we had some awesome views.

Views opening up on our way to Vail Pass
The grade of the incline on the way up to Vail Pass wasn't horrible, so while I definitely did not run the whole 8 miles, I was able to maintain a very steady and efficient pace. Filled up my water bladder at the aid station and proceeded to the single track. This is when things got gnarly. What I had expected to be "rolling" for 2 miles, was more uphill... and actually, slightly steeper and more technical than the previous 8 miles (well, duh... now we were on single track!).  I could hear my heart break piece by piece... but I was still optimistic that maybe I'd be summitting soon! When my Garmin beeped for mile 10, we started going downhill... at which point we were already in what I thought was Vail Ski Resort (or at least the side country of it) so I figured, how much farther up can we go? So I just bombed down whatever went down, but to my disappointment, that lasted a half a mile... Ok, I was off by 2 miles. THIS was the rolling section. I pushed through despite it being more up than down, but we then arrived in Vail Ski Resort. For REAL this time.

We're in... FOR SURE! 
I continued very contently since I thought... How much farther up can we go? Well, a random girl behind me said: "Look to your right?" Ugh... I SO wish she hadn't said that... HUGE switch backs to the ridge. But I mean... the ridge was WAY up there. My heart broke JUST a little more. At this point, we were roughly at mile 13, so seriously? How much farther up can we go... we gotta go down at one point!! I walked slowly to the top, and I would just see the people who I had stuck with for 4 days slowly disappear in front of me... I feel like this broke me and slowed me down even more. Regardless, I got to the top to areas of the resort I recognized. I tried to regroup and continue on. I reached the rocky technical descent that the course director had talked about and even smiled for the camera. For all I knew, the climbing was OVER! It was all downhill from there!

TRR was a technical run, but not like this!  This was just a short scrambling section! :)
I reached the aid station shortly after this and even sat down on the chair to take in some calories. I got up quick though and continued on. Let's have some fun!!! Unfortunately, the fun lasted a half a mile... and at mile 16, I found myself climbing again! Ok, I was SUPER off... For all I knew, the climbing ended at mile 12!!! I was 4 ahead at that point, and had a hill in front of me that I had NO idea how long it'd be.

I literally cried. I was absolutely exhausted... I turned off my iPod, replied to some words of encouragement from my TRR friend Rob with some very cranky words in a very cranky mood... and fell behind. Before I knew it, Marna caught up to me... nicely, she pushed me. Like she ACTUALLY pushed me from the bottom of my hydration pack. It seemed to help, but I knew she was probably as tired as me.. she just happened to be in a less dark place. She eventually moved ahead and I was left behind with my tears.

We reached the top of Chair 4. Which I knew well. I was exhausted, I had cried and I was ready for an all downhill. It took me a little while to regroup (maybe a mile), but from the top (mile 17) to the aid station (mile 21) I was able to run. I stopped at the aid for a couple minutes and had a beverage and some watermelon and continued on... the downhill was fun:

I eventually caught up to Marna, who was now struggling. I stayed with her for a couple minutes and told her we were close (I know that mountain a little too well) and I passed her. I finally came close to the village and saw the finish line. It was a huge relief! I crossed the finish line in 5 hours 49 minutes and 49 seconds for 14th place. This was officially my longest day out on the trails and I was stoked it was over.

It was great  to see Marna finish just 4 minutes behind me. She was getting stronger as I was getting weaker! 
The rest of the evening was uneventful... Marna and I walked to camp together and it felt great to be at "home". I was struggling with eating as it seemed as if I had completely lost my appetite, but they had grilled some veggies and I ate some of that. Despite having had a crappy day, I was focusing on the next day's adventure... which was pretty much the end. Visualizing the finish was an emotional experience. It was surreal that this was the last night I was going to sleep in a tent and eat with all these people.

I tried to focus on the fact that despite the last stage being known to be a hard stage, it was still under 20 miles. Unfortunately, when the course briefing began, we learned that the last stage was not 19 miles as published on the guide book, it was more like 22. I was in disbelief and I may have had a tear roll down my cheek. I sat there silently listening, but heartbroken that I still had 22  miles to go. I know, it's not that big a difference, but after 5 long days of running at elevation, 3 miles was a huge difference.

I went to bed slightly bummed out, but tried to focus on the fact that it was almost over. One more day... and then, it'll all be a memory. I wasn't even sure I was emotionally ready for it to be over.

"Dig deep, my friend." Theresa said on her card for Day 5. I don't think I'd ever dug any deeper...

Up Next: TransRockies Run6 - Stage 6

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